Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Agony and the Irony--adventures in searching for an agent

I thought the hard part was writing the novel. Especially when I consider that my longest completed work of creative writing prior to starting "The Wings of Winter" was a sestina--a devilishly difficult poetic form. 39 lines. 6 stanzas of 6 lines followed by a single tercet. Doesn't sound very difficult--how hard can it be to write 39 lines?

Ha. To write a sestina, you must choose 6 ending words that will be repeated as the end words in each stanza, in slightly different placements. The tercet must use all 6 end words, two to a line. Ideally each line is written in iambic pentameter. And the tercet must act to 'cap' the poem, much in the same way as a final couplet in a sonnet. I've written 3 of these brutes. After that, writing a novel *almost* feels easy.

About a year and a half ago, I decided that I would write a novel based on a fragment of writing that survived from my college days, multiple moves, floods. The writing was terrible. Really. But the main character still captivated me and she began to pester me to return to her world. I did; squeezing time for writing in between all my other committments; job, children, home. It was hard work, but a labor of love and I rarely became discouraged in the process. With the help and support of a wonderful critique group, I finished the novel. Editing flowed fairly smoothly. After a year of intense work, I was ready to attempt to find an agent.

In my naivety, I honestly thought that achieving representation would be easier than completing the novel. I have discovered that the publishing world is a convoluted and difficult one in which the writer has only moments and one sheet of paper to convince a potential agent to even request the manuscript.

I am not a salesman.

In my 'day job', I am a physical therapist. I work with patients who have complex orthopedic problems. It may take me two or three one-hour sessions just to feel as if I've understood the problem correctly. And I am not a novice--I have been a therapist for nearly 20 years. If each patient had 5 minutes to 'pitch' me their issue in order for me to decide if I could help them, I would likely decline patients that I could help and take on patients who were not a good match for my skills and abilities.

I'm not sure the skills needed to write a strong novel are the same skills that are required to craft a strong query letter.

I think I'll go hide in a garret somewhere and write a double sestina.

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